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Negative thinking in dementia later in life, but you can learn to be more positive

Are you a pessimist by nature, a “glass half empty” kind of person? This is not good for your brain.

A new study found that repetitive negative thought in later life has been linked to cognitive decline and over two deposits of harmful proteins responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

“We propose that repetitive negative thinking can be a new risk factor for dementia,” said lead author Dr. Natalie Marchant, psychiatrist and lead researcher in the department of mental health at University College London, in a statement.

negative thought behavior such as rumination of the past and worry about the future were measured in more than 350 people over 55 years over a period of two years. About a third of the participants also underwent brain PET scanner (positron emission tomography) to measure the deposits of tau protein and beta-amyloid, two proteins that cause Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia .
Analyzes showed that people who spent more time thinking negatively had more tau and accumulation of beta-amyloid, worse memory and cognitive decline over a period of four years compared to people who are not pessimistic .

The study also tested for levels of anxiety and depression and found greater cognitive decline in people with depression and anxiety, which ECHOES previous research.

But deposits of tau and amyloid has not increased in individuals already depressed and anxious, leading researchers to suspect the repeated negative thinking may be the main reason why depression and anxiety contribute to disease Alzheimer.

“Taken together with other studies, depression and anxiety related dementia risk, we expect that chronic negative thinking patterns over a long period may increase the risk of dementia,” said Marchant .
“This is the first study showing a biological relationship between repetitive negative thoughts and Alzheimer’s pathology, and gives physicians a more precise way to assess risk and provide interventions more personally tailored” said the neurologist Richard Isaacson, founder of the clinical prevention of Alzheimer’s in NYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center who was not involved in the study.

“Many people at risk are not aware of the impact of specific concern and negative rumination directly into the brain,” said Isaacson, who is also director of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation, which funds research to better understand and mitigate the cognitive decline associated with age.
“This study is important and will change the way I care about my patients at risk. “

More study needed

It is “important to stress that this does not mean a short-term period of negative thinking causes Alzheimer’s disease,” said Fiona Carragher, who is the chief political and head of research at the Alzheimer Society London. “We need further investigation to better understand it. “

“Most people in the study have already been identified as being at higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease, so we would need to see if these results are reported in the general population,” she said “and if the repeated negative thinking increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease itself”.

The researchers suggest that mental training practices such as meditation could help promote positive thinking and reduce negative thoughts, and they are planning future studies to test their hypothesis.

“Our thoughts can have a biological impact on our physical health, which could be positive or negative, said study co-author Dr. Gael Chételat Inserm / University of Caen Normandy.

“Taking care of your mental health is important, and it should be a public health priority because it is not only important for the health and well-being in the short term, but it could also have a potential risk impact of dementia ‘ , Chételat said.

Looking on the bright side

Previous research supports their hypothesis. People who watch life from a positive perspective have a lot better chance of avoiding death from any kind of cardiovascular risk than pessimists, according to a study 2019. In fact, more positive, the person, the more protection against crises heart disease, stroke and all causes of death.

It is not only your heart, which is protected by a positive attitude. Previous research has found a direct link between optimism and other positive attributes for health, such as eating healthier and exercising, a stronger immune system and better pulmonary function, among others.

This is probably because that optimists tend to have better health habits, said Dr. Alan Rozanski cardiologist, professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which studies the health effects of optimism. They are more likely to exercise, have a better diet and are less likely to smoke.

“Optimists also tend to have a better capacity to adapt and are better problem solvers,” Rozanski told CNN in an earlier interview. “They are better at what we call proactive adaptation, or anticipate problems and take proactive steps to correct. “

Train to be optimistic

You can tell where you stand on the concept glass half full or empty by answering a series of statements called the “life orientation test. “

The test includes statements such as: “I am a believer in the idea that” every cloud has a silver lining, “and” If something can go wrong for me, it will. “You evaluate the statements on a scale from strongly agree to disagree very, and the results can be added together to determine your level of optimism or pessimism.

Previous research has shown that it is possible to “train the brain” to be more optimistic, like training a muscle. Using direct measures of brain structure and function, a study found it took only 30 minutes a day of meditation practice in two weeks to produce a measurable change in the brain.

One of the most efficient means of increasing optimism, according to a meta-analysis of existing studies, the method is called “Best Self possible,” you imagine a newspaper or on yourself in a future in which you have achieved all your goals in life and all your problems have been solved.

Another technique is to practice gratefulness. Just take a few minutes each day to write what makes you grateful can improve your outlook on life. And while you’re there, the list of positive experiences that you have had that day, which can also increase your optimism.

“And finally, we know that cognitive behavioral therapies are very effective treatments for depression, pessimism is on the road to depression,” said Rozanski.

“You can apply the same principles that we do for depression such as cropping. You teach there is another way to think negative thoughts or Cropping, and you can make great progress with a pessimistic that way. “

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